Earth to the news media: People don’t trust you

Local TV stations do (and should) spend time and effort (and $$$) marketing themselves. This promo dates back to 1977 and might be the best done in Milwaukee.


My wife Jennifer was only four years old at the time and still remembers the words of that catchy tune.

The broadcast business is incredibly competitive. So if the other guys are doing it, well then you better as well.

I swear in one of those old Channel 6 spots Tom Hooper was filmed helping a stranded motorist change a tire.

Too old, too hokey to repeat in 2021?

Are you crazy?


I’ve been out of the business for a while now. But I recall how this stuff works.

When I worked at WTMJ and the TV and radio news teams shared a newsroom the TV side hired a consultant, I believe from a remote place. Let’s say Denver. The hired critic who probably looked like Alice the Goon from the old Popeye cartoons took aim at an attractive news anchor. The consultant noted that the anchorwoman wore short skirts on the set exposing her knees. According to the undoubtedly overpaid analyst those knees looked like “bowling balls.” For the record, they didn’t.

Generally speaking, my guess is TV stations that sign contracts to analyze a market they know little about decide when they receive a final report with negativity they’ll just ignore whatever they read, no matter how they disagree. After all, we paid all this good money, so we’re not tossing the results in the trash. Unfair as it all may seem it’s taken far more than under advisement.

Back to the feel good ads. Don’t get me wrong. I think TV stations should pat themselves on the back. Who’s going to do it otherwise?

My assessment is that such promotional tools say absolutely nothing, nada, zilch about the quality of a station’s work, especially news. Instead the station wants to emphasize you needn’t turn to it for the best news coverage. Not a problem. The station is your friend. Whatever the hell that means.

Is that a winning strategy?

GALLUP, OCTOBER 7, 2021: Americans’ trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36%, making this year’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend. In all, 7% of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29% “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32%record low in 2016, amid the divisive presidential election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In addition, 29% of the public currently registers “not very much” trust and 34% have “none at all.”

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author, and is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. He writes:

The news media is about as popular as a first-century tax collector. This probably isn’t breaking news if you are a consumer of journalism, or what passes for journalism.

The real tragedy of this (Gallup) survey is that the news media won’t pay any attention to it, assuming, as it almost always does, that people are either too daft to understand subtlety and nuance or they’re simply wrong on the issues. If these morons don’t like our coverage, who needs them?

At some point, the national media, and assorted local outlets, decided that their primary responsibility was no longer to merely cover the news, opting instead to serve as members of the resistance, advocates, or activists.

But if the profession is going to regain the public’s trust, it needs to take some serious inventory and acknowledge its failings. And printing a retraction doesn’t qualify as honest self-reflection. I’m more interested in the reporting that led the retraction.

The Gallup survey would be a good place to start. The news media should look at these numbers, acknowledge its predicament and ask some difficult questions. Or, it can ignore them, at its own peril.



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